Horace Silver is another one of the true originals in jazz. All jazz musicians strive to have a unique, identifiable sound, and Horace achieved that early on in his career. His percussive, hard-driving style is recognizable within a few notes and his compositions are some of the most well crafted and beloved in jazz history. Few can match the number of compositions that have become standards, including “The Preacher,” “Senor Blues,” “Sister Sadie,” and his most famous tune, “Song For My Father.”
Silver’s big break came when he backed Stan Getz in in 1950. Getz was taken with the young pianist and took his band on the road with him, eventually recording three of Silver’s compositions and providing Horace with his first recording session as well. After that, Silver moved to New York and started the first incarnation of The Jazz Messengers with Art Blakey. This band released a couple of live albums that are the real beginnings of the hard bop movement, with front lines that featured either Clifford Brown and Lou Donaldson or Kenny Dorham and Hank Mobley.
Horace left The Messengers to form his own quintet and went on to lead some semblance of that band through the 80s and even today. The most famous version featured Blue Mitchell and Junior Cook out front, and we heard them earlier when I featured Mitchell.
Silver’s most famous tune, “Song For My Father,” was written after the composer visited Sergio Mendes in Brazil. Silver states that he tried to capture the true sound of the Bossa Nova, as he heard it. With Joe Henderson on tenor and Carmel Jones on trumpet, this is one of the most classic of jazz tunes known all over the world.
You might recognize the bassline from a big pop hit, as Steely Dan crafted their song “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number” on it.
To give you an idea of the breadth of Silver’s composing and playing, here are a few bonus videos. This first one is the original Jazz Messengers, with Brown and Donaldson tearing it up:
Here’s “Senor Blues,” with Mitchell and Cook:
And lastly, one of the most beautiful ballads in jazz, “Peace,” again with Mitchell and Cook:
Jason Parker is a Seattle-based jazz trumpet player, educator and writer. His band, The Jason Parker Quartet, was hailed by Earshot Jazz as “the next generation of Seattle jazz.” Find out more about Jason and his music at jasonparkermusic.com.